The devil is in the detail

Delegating data collection tasks is a great way to get results

 “Can you just walk me through your numbers?”

“What are you basing this on?”

“Really? Prove it!”

Depending on how tactful your colleagues are, you’ll have heard one or all of the above many times over the course of your working life. And as frustrating as it can be to hear these well-worn challenges aimed (once again) at you, you also know deep down that it’s a good thing that we’re expected to base our decisions, progress reports and results claims on clear facts and figures.

Often, getting the relevant data is as simple as pressing a button, emailing one of your colleagues in Finance, or pulling a few downloaded files together into a single spreadsheet.

But there are also plenty of times – especially when it comes to large-scale projects – when things aren’t so straightforward. The data you need is out there somewhere, but you have no easy way to get to it.  Such as the collection of information to support sustainability initiatives, the product information to enable compliance with changes in nutritional facts label or the elimination of PHOs. A topical subject given the changes to nutritional facts label. It’s going to take not only time, but also expertise – neither of which you may necessarily have in abundance.

In this blog post, we’re going to look at the idea of enlisting specialized help to collect the level of detailed data that’s going to enable you to do your best work.

Know your limits!

It’s certainly your job to find the facts and figures to legitimize the steps you plan to take and the claims you make, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best person to collect that data. Data Collection exercises can become very complex very quickly, and so without the right tools, expertise and manpower you can quickly find yourself wasting valuable resources without getting any closer to the answers you need. It may be a very smart and cost-effective move to bring someone in to do the heavy lifting for you.

Before we go any further, however, let me be clear that employing an individual or organization to help you with your data collection is not a magical cure-all for your data woes. Failure on your part to plan well won’t be easily fixed by bringing someone new in later in the day. Before embarking on any project or initiative, then, make sure you have thought through what you need to measure, who you’ll need to involve and what your important milestones and deadlines are going to be. Even before you begin work, you should be able to spot if you’re going to need help.

If possible, begin looking for someone to help with your Data Collection needs well before you get started on your project.

What to look for

It goes without saying that as you begin your search, you should look for recommendations from people you trust, read online reviews and talk to potential candidates to see if they are a good fit for your needs.

In addition, here are a few clues you will want to look for that indicate a prospective contractor is really equipped to help:

  • Can they step into your shoes, put themselves in your position?
  • Are they able to clearly and confidently explain how they will meet your data needs?
  • Will they take the time to develop a comprehensive understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish?
  • Will they be transparent about costs, timelines and methodologies?

And remember, they will be communicating with people on your behalf! So, look for people that you’re confident can:

  • Write logically and clearly
  • Organize and structure projects in a sensible way
  • Provide the best attention to detail possible

Case Study

At S4RB, we offer a range of software and services to help retailers make their Private Brand products the very best they can be. We have run plenty of Data Collection campaigns for our clients, most often reaching out to private brand suppliers on their behalf to gather complex, nuanced or sensitive information. So, I’d like to finish with a story of one of the exercises we were involved with, to show just what can be achieved when expert help is brought in.

A retailer came to us after having made a commitment to reduce sodium by 25% and sugars by 10% from their products, as well as eliminating the use of industrially produced PHOs. The retailer needed to know the exact amounts of sodium and sugar in each of their products, and whether these products contained PHOs, and therefore needed to reach out to their suppliers in select categories. In total, this amounted to over 20,000 items from over 1,000 suppliers; in this case both branded and private brand products.

With a deadline of just four weeks to collect 80% of supplier data, the retailer came to S4RB to help support with the data collection. S4RB began by carrying out data cleansing and data validation to ensure that supplier contact information was up-to-date and accurate. With contact information for over 1,000 suppliers, S4RB’s in-house team configured a data-collection tool to specifically suit the specific needs of the retailer.

S4RB also played the role of an ambassador for the suppliers, providing them with ongoing support throughout the process, saving valuable time for the retailer. By the end of the initial four week period, S4RB had been able to gather data for 89% of the items, above and beyond the retailers initial target, providing a thorough overview of the salt and sugar reductions and PHO usage in items supplied by suppliers which then continued on a regular basis over the multi-year life of the project.  And yes, the retailer did achieve their ambitious targets for nutritional improvement.

Tags: Product insights

Team S4RB

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